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And yet at the end of the day—literally during a five o’clock counseling appointment, as the golden late-afternoon sunlight spilled over the wall of Balinese masks—when given the final choice by our longtime family therapist, who stands in as our shaman, mother, or priest, I realized … Heart-shattering as this moment was—a gravestone sunk down on two decades of history—I would not be able to replace the romantic memory of my fellow transgressor with the more suitable image of my husband, which is what it would take in modern-therapy terms to knit our family’s domestic construct back together.In women’s-magazine parlance, I did not have the strength to “work on” falling in love again in my marriage.These are the youngsters who are likely to suffer, according to a measurable matrix of factors such as truancy, disobedience in school, and teen pregnancy.Instead of preaching marriage, Cherlin says, we should preach domestic stability for children. Apparently not, at least not the way we do it in America.After all, we can easily arrange to sit far from our exes, across the flower-bedecked aisle, so as not to roil the festive day. At least that is the attitudinal yin/yang described by Andrew J.Cherlin in his scrupulously argued Marriage-Go-Round: compared with our western European counterparts, Americans are far more credulous about marriage.of the women I regularly dine with, now that I have a divorced person’s oddly relaxed—oddly civilized, even horribly French? It has been almost 10 years since I dined with adults on a weekly basis.
And along the way, I’ve begun to wonder, what with all the abject and swallowed misery: Why do we still insist on marriage?
Which is to say I can work at a career and child care and joint homeownership and even platonic male-female friendship.
However, in this cluttered forest of my 40s, what I cannot authentically reconjure is the ancient dream of brides, even with the Oprah fluffery of weekly “date nights,” when gauzy candlelight obscures the messy house, child talk is nixed and silky lingerie donned, so the two of you can look into each other’s eyes and feel that “spark” again. Given my staggering working mother’s to-do list, I cannot take on yet another arduous home- and self-improvement project, that of rekindling our romance.
In short, although we say we love religion and marriage, Cherlin notes, “religious Americans are more likely to divorce than secular Swedes.” Cherlin believes the reason for this paradox is that Americans hold two values at once: a culture of marriage and a culture of individualism.
Or is it an American spirit of optimism wedded, if you will, to a Tocquevillian spirit of restlessness that inspires three out of four Americans to say they believe marriage is for life, while only one in four agreed with the notion that even if a marriage is unhappy, one should stay put for the sake of the children.
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Imagine driving with me now to Rachel’s house for our new 40-something social hobby—the Girls’ Night dinner.